While it feels like ages ago, the Lakers and Kyrie Irving’s dance around one another this past offseason was only a small handful of months ago. So, so much has changed since it felt inevitable Kyrie would be donning the purple and gold during the summer.
There were a number of stops and starts and hold-ups throughout the whole saga. Ultimately, the Nets’ insistence on standing pat with both Irving and Kevin Durant derailed any hopes the Lakers had of acquiring Irving. But even before that, Irving briefly flirted with the idea of turning down his player option to join the Lakers, either as part of a sign-and-trade or the far more unlikely course of him taking the taxpayer mid-level exception.
In the same vein, there are a number of reasons that didn’t work out either, but one of those may have been the Lakers reluctance to commit to Irving long-term, which Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN reported on Sportscenter (emphasis mine).
“I think it speaks to what happened last summer when Brooklyn was resistant to giving Kyrie Irving a long-term guaranteed contract. So were the Lakers in a sign-and-trade scenario with Brooklyn. I think for Kyrie Irving, these were the questions that put him in this situation where he was in the final year of his deal. I don’t think there’s anything that’s happened so far this season on or especially off the court that’s going to give anybody more comfort with committing to Kyrie Irving on a long-term contract that leaves an organization without the flexibility to move out from under it.”
Obviously, in hindsight, this looks like a very good decision for the Lakers amid everything going on with Irving in Brooklyn in recent weeks. At this point, it feels fair to wonder how much longer Irving’s career will even last past this season.
Even at the time during the offseason, though, there were plenty of concerns about Irving. He had sat out half a season because of his refusal to take a COVID vaccine. Mix in issues with him going AWOL mid-season and the manner in which everything went sour in Boston and the Lakers shouldn’t have been ready to commit to Irving long-term this summer.
It’s a small thing, but for a Lakers front office that has looked pretty desperate at times in recent seasons, having a pretty firm line in the sand when negotiating for Kyrie was the right call and a measured one. And looking at everything now, it’s a move that might have also saved the Lakers one huge, huge mess with Kyrie this year as well.
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